Monday, 21 Sep 2020

Son of 'fit and healthy' coronavirus victim says people have 'given up caring'

The son of a grandad who died from coronavirus despite being ‘fit and healthy’ has made an impassioned call for a public inquiry as his family feels ‘left behind’ while the country moves on.

Neil Hames, 49, from Solihull, is now living with a local lockdown as the infection rate where he lives has spiralled. His father Walter – a former Coventry City footballer nicknamed ‘Wally’ – died in March after being admitted to hospital with Covid-19.

Neil was supportive of the Government’s early ‘stay at home’ message but believes it has made a catalogue of errors in its handling of the pandemic since. He said: ‘The Government has made some appalling, shocking decisions and I’ve just been left not knowing what to think, it’s beyond me.’

He said he has found it hard to watch people flouting rules around social distancing and mass gatherings. Solihull, together with Birmingham and Sandwell, is one of the areas where restrictions banning households from mixing have been reintroduced.

Neil believes the public has ‘given up caring’ and wants to urge people to carry on following the rules to protect other people.

He said: ‘At the start people generally adhered to the restrictions, but the vast majority now have either given up caring or simply don’t believe in it anymore.

‘They don’t think the virus is harmful or fatal or they think it only affects people over a certain age. I have watched people shuffle up to each other and say, “I’m alright if you are”, before shaking hands.

‘I have seen people on social media who have been out dancing and embracing others when they should have been in quarantine as they had just arrived from Spain. It’s going to be so much harder for the Government to lock the area down now because many people are out and about living their normal lives.’

Neil added: ‘The tide has turned with people saying the virus isn’t anything to worry about and it’s like flu. It’s painful to hear.

‘I’m at the stage now where I have to switch off the news and social media, especially the updates about how the virus is harmless or some kind of conspiracy, because it makes me angry.

‘Try saying the virus isn’t anything to worry about to someone like me, who saw its cruelty, or to the families who are campaigning for justice for their loved ones.’

Wally, 75, passed away at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, leaving behind his wife, Marina.

He led an active life and was fit and healthy in the days before his hospital admission, Neil said. The family made repeated 999 calls when Wally’s condition ‘rapidly deteriorated’ and he was only admitted hours before his death.

Try saying the virus isn’t anything to worry about to someone like me, who saw its cruelty’

Neil now wants answers from the Government as he fears the same could happen to another family if a second wave hits the UK.

‘All I know is that my family is still in a lot of pain and the majority of people, even some friends, don’t care anymore. We feel left behind and we won’t be able to move on until we get some answers,’ he said.

‘I still need to know why it was that we had to ring 999 four times on four separate occasions, to be told he would be better off at home three times, until he was admitted two hours before he passed.

‘I’ve asked myself “could things have been different?” I need to know what directions were given to the hospital and the ambulance service.

‘Something doesn’t sit right and I don’t have any confidence in the Government’s ability to handle a second wave.

‘There has to be an inquiry because we can’t ever afford to have another situation like the one we had at the peak of this crisis.’

A campaign group called Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice is calling for an independent, judge-led, statutory public inquiry into coronavirus deaths, which it wants to begin imminently.

Last week, reported how Fiona Kirton, who also lost her father Bernard Kirton to Covid-19, is campaigning for the review in his memory.

Boris Johnson appeared to commit to this in July, but has refused to be pinned down over the timescale, saying only that there will be one ‘in the future’ so lessons can be learned.

A Government spokesman said: ‘This has been an unprecedented global outbreak and the Government has acted to protect lives, incomes and the most vulnerable in our society.

‘As the Prime Minister has said, in the future there will be an opportunity for us to look back, to reflect and to learn some profound lessons. But at the moment, the most important thing to do is to focus on responding to the current situation and that’s exactly what we’re doing.’

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